Forget all the Washington cant about “party establishments,” “wings,” “insurgencies,” “nationalism” and “populism.”
The plain truth is that President Donald Trump is engaged in a political war with Senate Republicans.
Operatives are mobilizing, strategists are strategizing and hostile leaders eye each other warily across a wide gulf between the legislative and executive branches.
The president clearly has decided that the majority led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fails to serve him and wants the GOP caucus either to knuckle under or be replaced.
The fact that McConnell refrains from matching all of Trump’s name-calling and Twitter rants does not mean the veteran senator respects the White House team or its leader.
Nor is McConnell unaware he will need to defend his incumbents in primaries next year against the candidates of Trump’s self-described “wing man,” Steve Bannon.
The billionaire Mercer family of Suffolk County bankrolls Bannon. The only senator declared safe from his political assaults in next year’s races is Ted Cruz of Texas. The Mercers supported Cruz for president before he dropped out of the 2016 race.
This week’s developments reveal the level of mutual antagonism.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee is due to retire after 2018. He is therefore shielded from White House blowback when he charges that an addled Trump has turned the White House into an adult day care center that threatens to lead the U.S. into a world war.
What’s most remarkable is the lack of denunciation Corker has received from colleagues for saying such things about a Republican president.
Trump on Tuesday posted the message that “Liddle’ Bob Corker” had been made to “sound a fool” in an interview recorded by a newspaper.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a TV star at Trump’s nominating convention last summer, told Politico that Trump “needs to stop. But I wish Bob would stop, too. Just stop.”
“We’ve got so many other things that we need to be focusing on right now. We need to look ahead, not reflect on anything that’s been done or said in the past.”
That’s hardly a ringing defense of a president under furious fire — but about as strong a statement in Trump’s favor as one could hear coming out of the Senate.
Of the domestic brawls Trump chose to pick, the one against his own adopted party could prove the most costly.
Not in terms of intraparty popularity — Gallup rated Trump’s job approval among Republicans at 81 percent this week (compared to 33 percent among independents and 9 percent among Democrats).
No, the president’s Senate onslaught hinders the prospect of quickly accomplishing what he says he wishes to get done.
In a report released Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund said it no longer expects Trump’s proposed tax cuts to happen. That means economic expansion way lower than he promised, at 2.2 percent in 2017 and 2.3 percent in 2018.
The IMF cited “significant policy uncertainty.”
Which is nicer than calling tax cuts what they are — a potential casualty of an internal Republican war, at least for the time being.